CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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COURAGE, CONFRONTATION AND COMPASSION

In his book Profiles in Courage, John F. Kennedy wrote, “Great crises produce great men and great deeds of courage.” While it is true that a crisis helps to make a person, it is also true that a crisis helps to reveal what a person is made of. Pilate faced a great crisis, but his handling of it did not give him either courage or greatness. How we handle the difficulties of life will depend largely on what kind of character we have; for what life does to us depends on what life finds in us.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

In this very personal letter, Paul opened his heart to the Corinthians (and to us) and revealed the trials he had experienced. To begin with, he had been severely criticized by some of the people in Corinth because he had changed his plans and apparently not kept his promise to revisit them. When Christians misunderstand each other, the wounds can go very deep. Then, there was the problem of opposition to his apostolic authority in the church. One of the members—possibly a leader—had to be disciplined, and this gave Paul great sorrow. Finally, there were the difficult circumstances Paul had to endure in Asia (2 Cor. 1:8–11), a trial so severe that he despaired of life.

Because Paul is so in harmony with the Holy Spirit of God, tenaciously led by God Spirit, he disappoints other people at times in the work God gave him to do.  Have you ever been in this predicament as a leader?  It can be tension filled and heart wrenching to walk with God while disappointing others’ opinions and wishes.  Why?  Because you cannot both please God and man at the same time in most cases.  Yes, this happens in the church.  Yes, it hurts even more because of the deep love we have for each other. Everything about us is put to the test; love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, gentleness and all the other spiritual character traits God is growing and bearing in all of us.  The courage to ultimately stick with what God tells us to do will reveal the true character of Who and what lies within us.

The phrases “you hurt the ones you love the most” rings truer than not when striving to be who God wants you to be and do exactly what He wants.  As leaders, we must listen to God first and not be pulled by humans, no matter how much “importance” they tell us they have in the church. If, indeed, Jesus in the foundation of His church upon which our lives are built, living stone by living stone, with Jesus also being the Head of the Body of Christ (church), then who must we listen to and obey?  Jesus.

That being said, Paul teaches us to care enough to confront, love and forgive. Nothing smells so sweet as when the Body of Christ is restored to harmony with Christ. 

We’re not in charge of how you live out the faith, looking over your shoulders, suspiciously critical. We’re partners, working alongside you, joyfully expectant. I know that you stand by your own faith, not by ours.”  2 Cor 1:24

CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT

2 Corinthians 2, The Message

1-2 That’s why I decided not to make another visit that could only be painful to both of us. If by merely showing up I would put you in an embarrassingly painful position, how would you then be free to cheer and refresh me?

3-4 That was my reason for writing a letter instead of coming—so I wouldn’t have to spend a miserable time disappointing the very friends I had looked forward to cheering me up. I was convinced at the time I wrote it that what was best for me was also best for you. As it turned out, there was pain enough just in writing that letter, more tears than ink on the parchment. But I didn’t write it to cause pain; I wrote it so you would know how much I care—oh, more than care—love you!

5-8 Now, regarding the one who started all this—the person in question who caused all this pain—I want you to know that I am not the one injured in this as much as, with a few exceptions, all of you. So I don’t want to come down too hard. What the majority of you agreed to as punishment is punishment enough. Now is the time to forgive this man and help him back on his feet. If all you do is pour on the guilt, you could very well drown him in it. My counsel now is to pour on the love.

9-11 The focus of my letter wasn’t on punishing the offender but on getting you to take responsibility for the health of the church. So if you forgive him, I forgive him. Don’t think I’m carrying around a list of personal grudges. The fact is that I’m joining in with your forgiveness, as Christ is with us, guiding us. After all, we don’t want to unwittingly give Satan an opening for yet more mischief—we’re not oblivious to his sly ways!

An Open Door

12-14 When I arrived in Troas to proclaim the Message of the Messiah, I found the place wide open: God had opened the door; all I had to do was walk through it. But when I didn’t find Titus waiting for me with news of your condition, I couldn’t relax. Worried about you, I left and came on to Macedonia province looking for Titus and a reassuring word on you. And I got it, thank God!

14-16 In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.

16-17 This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No—but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.

GOD GIVE US OPEN DOORS! 

What fragrance to we have when we walk into a room?

Are we compared to the teenage boy who is now trying to attract the opposite sex, whose overpowering fragrance comes wafting through the doors before he does? Or like a sweet-smelling oil that draws people to the Jesus in us while glorifying the God who leads us?  This is where Paul is leading us in his illustration.

Paul was sure that God was using him as He was leading him (vv. 14c–17). As the Roman priests burned the incense in the parade, that odor affected different people in different ways. To the triumphant soldiers, it meant life and victory; but to the conquered enemy, it meant defeat and death. They were on their way to be killed by the beasts.

Using this image of the incense, Paul pictured the Christian ministry. He saw believers as incense, giving forth the fragrance of Jesus Christ in their lives and labors. To God, believers are the very fragrance of Jesus Christ. To other believers, we are the fragrance of life; but to unbelievers, we are the fragrance of death. In other words, the Christian life and ministry are matters of life and death. The way we live and work can mean life or death to a lost world around us.

So, how do we smell?  It is a matter of life and death to the lost.

Paul closes this portion of his letter with God’s best—

We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.”

Lord, Because of your teaching, this is my prayer,

Tell me what to say, with your love of compassion flowing from my heart, sincerely and honestly.  May the sweet aroma of your presence in and around me, draw people to you, dear Jesus, the One who resides and abides in me.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, So others may know and follow, too, Amen.

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MOTIVATIONS MATTER

“Because I said so!”  Admit it, when frustrated as parents, running out of words to compel our kids to do the right thing, we end of shouting what our parents said to us.  We said we never say those words (before being parents) and then one day it happens.  The words flow out quickly, easily and unrestrained.  “Do it because I said so!”  This is usually followed by a heavy sigh with a bit of regret.  You know it’s not your best teachable moment, on a quick fix from frustration.  We want our kids to do the right thing because they want to, motivated by growing inner character with good hearts and great minds; not by us consistently standing over their shoulders. 

Is there a way to encourage right behavior without constant words and your presence?  Yes, there is.

  • Model what we teach.  Kids pick up on fakes and phonies quickly at a very early age.  Consistency is key.  Know that much of what is taught is caught through our behavior.
  • Talk while you walk through life.  Give reasons for actions we are taking in our own lives. 
  • Allow failure and consequences as learning opportunities for growth. 
  • Downplay criticisms.  Follow through with encouragement, care, relentless love, forgiveness with a fresh beginning.
  • Be Christ-like in all our relationships, showing respect and dignity to every human we come in contact with in our journey to be more and more like Jesus.
  • Don’t hide our own failures, show them how to deal with failure.
  • Care for others as others cared for us, bringing our kids into the process. They learn best by being with us.
  • Wrap all this up in prayer to our Master Teacher, Jesus, who taught his young followers to pray.  As we remember, his disciples were motivated to learn to pray by watching Jesus pray.  Do we see the powerful lesson here?  Let them see you praying as often as possible. 

Paul, sent on mission by Jesus, to teach new believers the ways of God, cannot revisit the church in person so he sends a follow up letter to be read to the all who will hear.  He begins by reminding them WHO we follow and who we are in Christ because of what HE did for us.  Listen in to his teaching…like a parent to his children…much more than “because I said so!”

CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT

2 Corinthians 1, The Message

1-2 I, Paul, have been sent on a special mission by the Messiah, Jesus, planned by God himself. I write this to God’s congregation in Corinth, and to believers all over Achaia province. May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours! Timothy, someone you know and trust, joins me in this greeting.

The Rescue

3-5 All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.

6-7 When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it.

8-11 We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.

12-14 Now that the worst is over, we’re pleased we can report that we’ve come out of this with conscience and faith intact, and can face the world—and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. But it wasn’t by any fancy footwork on our part. It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised. Don’t try to read between the lines or look for hidden meanings in this letter. We’re writing plain, unembellished truth, hoping that you’ll now see the whole picture as well as you’ve seen some of the details. We want you to be as proud of us as we are of you when we stand together before our Master Jesus.

15-16 Confident of your welcome, I had originally planned two great visits with you—coming by on my way to Macedonia province, and then again on my return trip. Then we could have had a bon-voyage party as you sent me off to Judea. That was the plan.

17-19 Are you now going to accuse me of flip-flopping with my promises because it didn’t work out? Do you think I talk out of both sides of my mouth—a glib yes one moment, a glib no the next? Well, you’re wrong. I try to be as true to my word as God is to his. Our word to you wasn’t a careless yes canceled by an indifferent no. How could it be? When Silas and Timothy and I proclaimed the Son of God among you, did you pick up on any yes-and-no, on-again, off-again waffling? Wasn’t it a clean, strong Yes?

20-22 Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.

23 Now, are you ready for the real reason I didn’t visit you in Corinth? As God is my witness, the only reason I didn’t come was to spare you pain. I was being considerate of you, not indifferent, not manipulative.

24 We’re not in charge of how you live out the faith, looking over your shoulders, suspiciously critical. We’re partners, working alongside you, joyfully expectant. I know that you stand by your own faith, not by ours.

WHAT WE LEARN—

Paul plans but God decides.  Paul makes that very clear.   He is “on mission by Jesus, planned by God.”

Come-alongside-ministry.  God brings us through hard times so we can help others go through hard times!  What God teaches us is that valuable and appropriate to help others!  Who helps you? Think about all these people and stop to give God praises for them.  Then praise God for all he brought you through and who He sent in your path to help.  Friends, don’t you love this teaching?  The reward?  A full measure of Jesus’ comfort and healing!

“When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it.” 

“Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead!”  This is what we learn in dark, confusing, troubling hard times in our lives.  Trust Jesus.  Always.  God has the power to raise the dead!  He has the power to see us through anything we will face on this earth!

“Prayers play a crucial part.”  Constant communication with the One and Only who has all the power to see us through the good times and bad times is key to thriving as opposed to merely surviving.  Prayer keeps us focused on Jesus, our Master.  Prayer brings us closer to the power we need to overcome adversity.  Prayer is listening, being still, letting go of our own way, so we can hear what God has to say.  Prayer opens our eyes to better vision, seeing with a wider scope, with a different perspective.  Prayer is crucial to daily living a more holy life guided by God’s Holy Spirit who lives in us. 

“It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised.”  When in doubt, when the hard times come, look up.  God will keep us on tract, in his will, for our good.

Be flexible, joyfully expectant, ready to go or stay.  We plan, but God decides.  Follow God’s leading.  Authentic leaders, like Paul, are flexible, ready to change course as the Holy Spirit leads.

It’s God’s work, not ours.  “God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.”  See also Philippians 1.  “He who began a good work in you will complete it.”

“We’re partners, working alongside you, joyfully expectant. I know that you stand by your own faith, not by ours.”  In other words, they are now motivated by the One Paul is motivated by—not just “because I said so” we can almost hear Paul say. 

Lord,

Thank you for your teaching this morning.  Thank you for reminding us that we are all partners, working alongside each other, with different gifts and abilities but with one purpose, one desire to follow you, the One and Only.  You are Life, our reason to live and breathe.  You are our Hope of eternal life.  You are our Savior and our Lord, dear Jesus.  You are our Master Teacher.  Continue to work out your salvation in me.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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GOODBYES

I grew up in Oklahoma where good byes are not final until the whole family of visitors get in their vehicle, roll down the windows, honk the horn and wave wildly until they are out of sight.  Preceding this display of affection, is the following:

  • Guests rise from the couch and say, “Well, I guess we better get on our way.”  A shout to the kids to gather their things is given.  Kids keep playing because they know the “first call” gives them at least thirty more minutes of playtime.
  • Host family follows adult guests to the door, stand in the door way while telling one more story or two.  Another call to the kids is given.  Kids ignore.  They know the drill.
  • Host family follows adult guests out the door to the porch with more stories being told along with, “we really must go”.  “Kids, get your shoes on and collect your things!”  Kids still keep playing.  They know there is at least ten more minutes of play with their friends or family.
  • Guests are now in the front yard, slowly headed to the vehicle.  Kids are wandering around the talking adults, wondering if this is really it, the real time to get in the car, but still making the most of their opportunity to play with their friends.  A game of tag begins among the kids.
  • Adults now realize that the kids are not ready, so the first warning shot is fired, “Get your shoes on, gather your things, and get IN THE CAR!”  This is said more loudly and passionately than the other requests so the kids finally begin to do what they have been told while the adults begin to end their “goodbyes”. 
  • Final hugs and kisses are made but until the adults are actually seated in the vehicle and the motor is turned on, is the goodbye in locked position.  Kids know they have at least five more minutes before buckling up to hit and punch each other in fun. 
  • Final stage of departure happens when all are buckled in, motor is on, doors are shut, and the vehicle begins to move.  Windows are rolled down, wild waving begins with final shouts of goodbye and see you later!

NOTE:  Add two hours if you don’t’ see these people but once a year!  Otherwise, this is typical for those who live across town or down the road.

We laugh at the scenario, but seriously, good byes are precious.  Goodbyes and “see you laters” bring out the best thoughts in us.  We suddenly want to say what we didn’t say when we had time. 

And then there’s Paul saying goodbye…Admit it.  We read over this passage of good byes from Paul to the Corinthians quickly without really thinking about what Paul’s last words really signify. Paul teaches us a great deal as he says his goodbyes to the Corinthians.  So, get your things, get buckled up and really listen to the words of instruction!  Let’s go!

CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT

1 Corinthians 16, The Message

Coming to See You

1-4 Regarding the relief offering for poor Christians that is being collected, you get the same instructions I gave the churches in Galatia. Every Sunday each of you make an offering and put it in safekeeping. Be as generous as you can. When I get there you’ll have it ready, and I won’t have to make a special appeal. Then after I arrive, I’ll write letters authorizing whomever you delegate, and send them off to Jerusalem to deliver your gift. If you think it best that I go along, I’ll be glad to travel with them.

5-9 I plan to visit you after passing through northern Greece. I won’t be staying long there, but maybe I can stay awhile with you—maybe even spend the winter? Then you could give me a good send-off, wherever I may be headed next. I don’t want to just drop by in between other “primary” destinations. I want a good, long, leisurely visit. If the Master agrees, we’ll have it! For the present, I’m staying right here in Ephesus. A huge door of opportunity for good work has opened up here. (There is also mushrooming opposition.)

10-11 If Timothy shows up, take good care of him. Make him feel completely at home among you. He works so hard for the Master, just as I do. Don’t let anyone disparage him. After a while, send him on to me with your blessing. Tell him I’m expecting him, and any friends he has with him.

12 About our friend Apollos, I’ve done my best to get him to pay you a visit, but haven’t talked him into it yet. He doesn’t think this is the right time. But there will be a “right time.”

13-14 Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping.

15-16 Would you do me a favor, friends, and give special recognition to the family of Stephanas? You know, they were among the first converts in Greece, and they’ve put themselves out, serving Christians ever since then. I want you to honor and look up to people like that: companions and workers who show us how to do it, giving us something to aspire to.

17-18 I want you to know how delighted I am to have Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus here with me. They partially make up for your absence! They’ve refreshed me by keeping me in touch with you. Be proud that you have people like this among you.

19 The churches here in western Asia send greetings.

Aquila, Priscilla, and the church that meets in their house say hello.

20 All the friends here say hello.

Pass the greetings around with holy hugs!

21 And I, Paul—in my own handwriting!—send you my regards.

22 If anyone won’t love the Master, throw him out. Make room for the Master!

23 Our Master Jesus has his arms wide open for you.

24 And I love all of you in the Messiah, in Jesus.

THE MEANING OF PAUL’S GOODBYES

It is to the credit of the believers at Corinth that, when they wrote their questions to Paul, they asked him about the collection he was taking for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Paul answered their question and then closed the letter by informing the church of his personal travel plans and also the plans for his associates in the ministry.

This chapter may seem unrelated to our needs today, but actually it deals in a very helpful way with three areas of stewardship: money (1 Cor. 16:1–4), opportunities (1 Cor. 16:5–9), and people (1 Cor. 16:10–24). These are probably the greatest resources the church has today, and they must not be wasted.

Money (16:1–4) One of the most important ministries Paul had during his third journey was the gathering of a special “relief offering” for the poor believers in Jerusalem. Paul’s greatest motive for taking up the offering was to help unite Jewish and Gentile believers.  Paul taught that giving is an act of worship, should be systematic, is person and individual, and is to be proportionate.  Give according to what God has provided you. If we appreciate the grace of God extended to us, we will want to express that grace by sharing with others.  And lastly, money is to be handled honestly. The various churches involved in this special offering appointed delegates to help Paul manage it and take it safely to Jerusalem.

Opportunities (16:5–9) “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15–16 NIV).  Paul was as careful in his use of time as he was in his use of money.  Paul had an open door of ministry in Ephesus, and this was important to him. He wanted to win the lost in Ephesus, not go to Corinth to pamper the saved. (On “open doors,” see Acts 14:27; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3; Rev. 3:8.) Paul was neither an optimist nor a pessimist; he was a realist. He saw both the opportunities and the obstacles. God had opened “a great door for effective work,” and Paul wanted to seize the opportunities while they were still there.

The stewardship of opportunity is important. The individual believer, and the church family, must constantly ask, What opportunities is God giving us today? Instead of complaining about the obstacles, we must take advantage of the opportunities, and leave the results with the Lord.

People (16:10–24) Often at the close of his letters, Paul named various people who were a part of his life and his ministry; and what a variety they were! He was not only a soul-winner, but he was a friend maker; and many of his friends found their way into dedicated service for the Lord.

Money and opportunities are valueless without people. The church’s greatest asset is people, and yet too often the church takes people for granted. Jesus did not give His disciples money, but He did invest three years training them for service so they might seize the opportunities He would present them. If people are prepared, then God will supply both the opportunities and the money so that His work will be accomplished.  Yes, and amen!

Paul’s goodbyes may or may not have been as long as an Oklahoma goodbye, but notice how he closed his letter by assuring them of his love. Paul has shared a great deal of spiritual wisdom with us. May we receive it with meekness and put it into practice to the glory of God!  Oh, and see you later!

Lord,

May our words and actions be led by you, motivated by your love in our hearts for each other, all for your glory!  Help us to learn from you for we are listening.  Continue to grow your character traits in us so we can bear the fruits of your Holy Spirit, making the most of opportunities you will provide.  Help us to love each other like you love us.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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RESURRECTION POWER!

The Cross Has the Final Word, Newsboys

The cross has the final word
The cross has the final word
Sorrow may come in the darkest night
But the cross has the final word

There’s nothing stronger, nothing higher
There’s nothing greater than the name of Jesus
All the honor, all the power
All the glory to the name of Jesus

The cross has the final word
The cross has the final word
Evil may put up its strongest fight
But the cross has the final word

There’s nothing stronger, nothing higher
Nothing greater than the name of Jesus
All the honor, all the power
All the glory to the name of Jesus

The cross has the final word
The cross has the final word
The Savior has come with the morning light
The cross has the final word

Yes, agreed.  The cross had the final word for the punishment of our sin!  But we must not stop there in our praise and thanksgiving to God who made a way for us to come back to Him.  It was the RESURRECTION from death, the final victory, that closed the deal and gave us hope of a FOREVER relationship with God, our Father. 

On that third day AFTER the humiliation of the cross, death was defeated—forever—for those who believe in Jesus’ work on the cross.  Paul is advising all believers, If we stop at the cross alone, impressed only by what Jesus went through to pay our debt of sin, we are missing the hope of eternity!  Dying to save us, our debt is cleared; But rising from death we are justified freely.  Death has no hold on us!  Eternal life was born for all who believe in the resurrection of Jesus from that grave!  Hope was born for all.  Jesus IS Hope!

Rise Again, Dallas Holm

Go ahead, drive the nails in my hands
Laugh at me where you stand
Go ahead, and say it isn’t me
The day will come, when you will see!

‘Cause I’ll rise again
Ain’t no power on earth can tie me down
Yes, I’ll rise again
Death can’t keep me in the ground!

Go ahead, and mock my name
My love for you is still the same
Go ahead, and bury me
But very soon I will be free!

‘Cause I’ll rise again
Ain’t no power on earth can tie me down
Yes, I’ll rise again
Death can’t keep me in the ground!

Go ahead, and say I’m dead and gone
But you will see that you were wrong
Go ahead, try to hide the Son
But all will see that I’m the One!

‘Cause I’ll Come again
Ain’t no power on earth can keep me back
Yes, I’ll come again
Come to take my people back

Paul didn’t have these gifted songwriters or musicians, but he did have the encounter with Jesus, the resurrected Messiah, on the road to Damascus, who told him the Truth about our blessed Hope of resurrection to eternal life. Paul spends time explaining the hope of resurrection to the Corinthians and to us so they/we will fully understand.

CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT

1 Corinthians 15, The Message

Resurrection

1-2 Friends, let me go over the Message with you one final time—this Message that I proclaimed and that you made your own; this Message on which you took your stand and by which your life has been saved. (I’m assuming, now, that your belief was the real thing and not a passing fancy, that you’re in this for good and holding fast.)

3-9 The first thing I did was place before you what was placed so emphatically before me: that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says; that he presented himself alive to Peter, then to his closest followers, and later to more than five hundred of his followers all at the same time, most of them still around (although a few have since died); that he then spent time with James and the rest of those he commissioned to represent him; and that he finally presented himself alive to me. It was fitting that I bring up the rear. I don’t deserve to be included in that inner circle, as you well know, having spent all those early years trying my best to stamp God’s church right out of existence.

10-11 But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I’m not about to let his grace go to waste. Haven’t I worked hard trying to do more than any of the others? Even then, my work didn’t amount to all that much. It was God giving me the work to do, God giving me the energy to do it. So whether you heard it from me or from those others, it’s all the same: We spoke God’s truth and you entrusted your lives.

12-15 Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ. And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there’s no resurrection.

16-20 If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It’s even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they’re already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.

21-28 There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man. Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ. But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming, the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition, he hands over his kingdom to God the Father. He won’t let up until the last enemy is down—and the very last enemy is death! As the psalmist said, “He laid them low, one and all; he walked all over them.” When Scripture says that “he walked all over them,” it’s obvious that he couldn’t at the same time be walked on. When everything and everyone is finally under God’s rule, the Son will step down, taking his place with everyone else, showing that God’s rule is absolutely comprehensive—a perfect ending!

29 Why do you think people offer themselves to be baptized for those already in the grave? If there’s no chance of resurrection for a corpse, if God’s power stops at the cemetery gates, why do we keep doing things that suggest he’s going to clean the place out someday, pulling everyone up on their feet alive?

30-33 And why do you think I keep risking my neck in this dangerous work? I look death in the face practically every day I live. Do you think I’d do this if I wasn’t convinced of your resurrection and mine as guaranteed by the resurrected Messiah Jesus? Do you think I was just trying to act heroic when I fought the wild beasts at Ephesus, hoping it wouldn’t be the end of me? Not on your life! It’s resurrection, resurrection, always resurrection, that undergirds what I do and say, the way I live. If there’s no resurrection, “We eat, we drink, the next day we die,” and that’s all there is to it. But don’t fool yourselves. Don’t let yourselves be poisoned by this anti-resurrection loose talk. “Bad company ruins good manners.”

34 Think straight. Awaken to the holiness of life. No more playing fast and loose with resurrection facts. Ignorance of God is a luxury you can’t afford in times like these. Aren’t you embarrassed that you’ve let this kind of thing go on as long as you have?

35-38 Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?” If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.

39-41 You will notice that the variety of bodies is stunning. Just as there are different kinds of seeds, there are different kinds of bodies—humans, animals, birds, fish—each unprecedented in its form. You get a hint at the diversity of resurrection glory by looking at the diversity of bodies not only on earth but in the skies—sun, moon, stars—all these varieties of beauty and brightness. And we’re only looking at pre-resurrection “seeds”—who can imagine what the resurrection “plants” will be like!

42-44 This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body—but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever! The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural—same seed, same body, but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!

45-49 We follow this sequence in Scripture: The First Adam received life, the Last Adam is a life-giving Spirit. Physical life comes first, then spiritual—a firm base shaped from the earth, a final completion coming out of heaven. The First Man was made out of earth, and people since then are earthy; the Second Man was made out of heaven, and people now can be heavenly. In the same way that we’ve worked from our earthy origins, let’s embrace our heavenly ends.

50 I need to emphasize, friends, that our natural, earthy lives don’t in themselves lead us by their very nature into the kingdom of God. Their very “nature” is to die, so how could they “naturally” end up in the Life kingdom?

51-57 But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?

It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!

58 With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.

THINK ABOUT IT…

Dear Friends, Are you rejoicing?!  Jesus not only died on a cross of shame for OUR sins—all of them—He defeated death for us forever with God’s power of resurrection.  That same resurrection power resides and abides in all who believe!

Do you really believe what you say you believe about God, His Son and Holy Spirit really real? 

Pause, reflect, take all the time you need.  This is important.  This is the measure of our Hope.  This is the determiner of our behaviors.  Pause. Have a little talk with Jesus. I am.

And, Jesus IS coming back, you know…

Lord,

You have us in the palm of your hand.  Our names are known to you.  You see the shallowness of our belief and yet you are patient with our growth and maturing faith and hope in you.  You are everything to me.  You are ALL I need.  You are God and I am not.  You are the Giver of Life forever.  All my hope is in you, dear Jesus, for you are Hope.  Thank you, thank you, thank you! 

In Jesus Name, For Your glory, Amen.  I believe.

Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
  Buried, He carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever:
    One day He’s coming—O glorious day!

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WORSHIP—AUDIENCE OF ONE, BENEFIT FOR ALL

The devil loves to promote divisive behaviors among God’s people.  He loves using his limited arsenal in his war against God by using the behaviors of competition, comparison, confusion while coaching leaders to jockey for position and become so busy in God’s work, they miss what is slowly happening to them.  Through the ages, these tools of self-destruction can be seen.  Evil’s tool box drives in nails of self-centered behaviors while the polar opposites tools from God’s tool box builds and benefits all people.

The more intimately our relationship grows with Jesus, the more closely intimate we become to each other.  We have God-centered goals that benefit all who believe.  We change our minds about self and think more like Jesus who laid aside his glory for the mission to save us.  (See Philippians 2)

The wild and crazy Corinthians have enough knowledge to be dangerous.  Evil knows that and feeds on their immaturities which are motivated by self-interests.  Paul cares enough to confront the corruption of self-centeredness within the Body of Christ.  He readily and directly responds to behaviors that draw attention to self but are not for the benefit of all.  He teaches ways to learn, speak and live Truth as redeemed people when gathered as the Body. 

You can easily see that evil is at work in individual lives, having fun confusing the crazy Corinthians in their self-righteous behaviors.  Does that happen today?  Yes, it does.  Many believers fall for the same lies evil hands out like candy to entice us to “have it our way” so we can be seen as “holier” than those around us.  We like to hear our own voices so sometimes we say things just to get attention.  We pray louder so others will hear how close we are to God.  We even serve with less than stellar motivations—all for the glory of self.  “It makes me feel good to serve” is an example. 

True story.  Years ago, we loaned our church facility to another church who needed a baptism tank to baptize their new converts.  Of course, we said yes.  We stayed until the service was over so we could drain the tank for Sunday services the next day.  And besides, what believer doesn’t enjoy seeing someone be baptized? What we observed, however, was similar to what Paul is talking about in our passage for today.  The service began traditionally with praise songs before the candidates were baptized.  A message was said but interspersed with loud comments that interrupted the train of thought of the message.  After the candidates were baptized, the “coaching” began.  A young man stands out to me even now as I write this.  He was saved by Jesus.  Truth.  He was baptized publicly to declare his new allegiance to Jesus.  Truth.  He was surrounded by the Body to encourage him in his new walk.  Truth.  But then, an obvious influencer of the Body of believers stood by him and prayed in a language no one could understand or interrupt.  The young man’s face of joy and peace turned to confusion and questioning with a frown.  Over and over, she pounded him to “get into the Spirit”.  “Let the Spirit take over.”  Followed by, “You, don’t have it, yet, keep trying”.  She got louder and louder, I guess so the Spirit would hear her?

Friends, I know I’m dabbling into things that divide us into denominations over semantics but that is not my intent.  Can you see how the devil used a woman of influence to immediately discourage a new believer who had given his life to Christ?  Her prayer language according to Paul is between her and the Lord.  I am not disputing that.  Please do not hear what I am not saying.  Her words did not benefit the Body, nor did it encourage a young man who was just reborn and baptized.  The young man, who didn’t “get the Spirit” in the older woman’s judgement, sat down dejected and sad.  I wanted to cry for him.  I did cry for him.

CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT

1 Corinthians 14, The Message

(Emphasis mine)

1-3 Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. Most of all, try to proclaim his truth. If you praise him in the private language of tongues, God understands you but no one else does, for you are sharing intimacies just between you and him. But when you proclaim his truth in everyday speech, you’re letting others in on the truth so that they can grow and be strong and experience his presence with you.

4-5 The one who prays using a private “prayer language” certainly gets a lot out of it, but proclaiming God’s truth to the church in its common language brings the whole church into growth and strength. I want all of you to develop intimacies with God in prayer, but please don’t stop with that. Go on and proclaim his clear truth to others. It’s more important that everyone have access to the knowledge and love of God in language everyone understands than that you go off and cultivate God’s presence in a mysterious prayer language—unless, of course, there is someone who can interpret what you are saying for the benefit of all.

6-8 Think, friends: If I come to you and all I do is pray privately to God in a way only he can understand, what are you going to get out of that? If I don’t address you plainly with some insight or truth or proclamation or teaching, what help am I to you? If musical instruments—flutes, say, or harps—aren’t played so that each note is distinct and in tune, how will anyone be able to catch the melody and enjoy the music?

If the trumpet call can’t be distinguished, will anyone show up for the battle?

9-12 So if you speak in a way no one can understand, what’s the point of opening your mouth? There are many languages in the world and they all mean something to someone. But if I don’t understand the language, it’s not going to do me much good. It’s no different with you. Since you’re so eager to participate in what God is doing, why don’t you concentrate on doing what helps everyone in the church?

13-17 So, when you pray in your private prayer language, don’t hoard the experience for yourself. Pray for the insight and ability to bring others into that intimacy. If I pray in tongues, my spirit prays but my mind lies fallow, and all that intelligence is wasted. So what’s the solution? The answer is simple enough. Do both. I should be spiritually free and expressive as I pray, but I should also be thoughtful and mindful as I pray. I should sing with my spirit, and sing with my mind. If you give a blessing using your private prayer language, which no one else understands, how can some outsider who has just shown up and has no idea what’s going on know when to say “Amen”? Your blessing might be beautiful, but you have very effectively cut that person out of it.

18-19 I’m grateful to God for the gift of praying in tongues that he gives us for praising him, which leads to wonderful intimacies we enjoy with him. I enter into this as much or more than any of you. But when I’m in a church assembled for worship, I’d rather say five words that everyone can understand and learn from than say ten thousand that sound to others like gibberish.

20-25 To be perfectly frank, I’m getting exasperated with your childish thinking. How long before you grow up and use your head—your adult head? It’s all right to have a childlike unfamiliarity with evil; a simple no is all that’s needed there. But there’s far more to saying yes to something. Only mature and well-exercised intelligence can save you from falling into gullibility. It’s written in Scripture that God said,

In strange tongues
    and from the mouths of strangers
I will preach to this people,
    but they’ll neither listen nor believe.

So where does it get you, all this speaking in tongues no one understands? It doesn’t help believers, and it only gives unbelievers something to gawk at. Plain truth-speaking, on the other hand, goes straight to the heart of believers and doesn’t get in the way of unbelievers. If you come together as a congregation and some unbelieving outsiders walk in on you as you’re all praying in tongues, unintelligible to each other and to them, won’t they assume you’ve taken leave of your senses and get out of there as fast as they can? But if some unbelieving outsiders walk in on a service where people are speaking out God’s truth, the plain words will bring them up against the truth and probe their hearts. Before you know it, they’re going to be on their faces before God, recognizing that God is among you.

26-33 So here’s what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight. If prayers are offered in tongues, two or three’s the limit, and then only if someone is present who can interpret what you’re saying. Otherwise, keep it between God and yourself. And no more than two or three speakers at a meeting, with the rest of you listening and taking it to heart. Take your turn, no one person taking over. Then each speaker gets a chance to say something special from God, and you all learn from each other. If you choose to speak, you’re also responsible for how and when you speak. When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony. This goes for all the churches—no exceptions.

34-36 Wives must not disrupt worship, talking when they should be listening, asking questions that could more appropriately be asked of their husbands at home. God’s Book of the law guides our manners and customs here. Wives have no license to use the time of worship for unwarranted speaking. Do you—both women and men—imagine that you’re a sacred oracle determining what’s right and wrong? Do you think everything revolves around you?

37-38 If any one of you thinks God has something for you to say or has inspired you to do something, pay close attention to what I have written. This is the way the Master wants it. If you won’t play by these rules, God can’t use you. Sorry.

39-40 Three things, then, to sum this up: When you speak forth God’s truth, speak your heart out. Don’t tell people how they should or shouldn’t pray when they’re praying in tongues that you don’t understand. Be courteous and considerate in everything.

WHAT WE LEARN—

  • Lead with God’s love, as it our lives depended it, because they do!  Jesus is central to all we are and all we do, is in and over all, and is for the benefit of all. 
  • “…when you proclaim his truth in everyday speech, you’re letting others in on the truth so that they can grow and be strong and experience his presence with you.”
  • “Since you’re so eager to participate in what God is doing, why don’t you concentrate on doing what helps everyone in the church?”
  • “When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all…”
  • “When you speak forth God’s truth, speak your heart out. Don’t tell people how they should or shouldn’t pray when they’re praying in tongues that you don’t understand.”
  • “Be courteous and considerate in everything.”

I get it, don’t you?  To God be the glory.  Always.

Lord,

We often get in the way of your love, mercy and grace in others and for that I repent. As “mature” believers, we sometimes think we are better than a new believer who comes to us for help.  May we always point people to you, the One and Only who is Perfect in every way, and not ourselves. Help us to mentor without forgetting our own sinfulness.  May we encourage others by lifting them up, not shaming them.   Help us to love like you love us.  May our first thought be your love.  Always.  May our words be led by You, for the benefit of all, or not said.  Teach us Lord, for we are still under construction.  None of us has arrived.  We are all still becoming.

In Jesus Name, For His glory, Amen

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WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

You must understand, though the touch of your hand
Makes my pulse react
That it’s only the thrill of boy meeting girl
Opposites attract
It’s physical
Only logical
You must try to ignore that it means more than that

Oh-oh, what’s love got to do, got to do with it?
What’s love but a second-hand emotion?
What’s love got to do, got to do with it?
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?

This popular 80’s hit sung by Tina Turner tried to tell us that love is just a “second hand emotion”, a brief thrillful reaction between male and female, and that it is only “physical”.  Even though the beat and performance are attracting, the words are lies.  To say that “you must try to ignore that it means more than that” explains Tina’s tumultuous life of never knowing or finding real love.

What is real love?  What does love do?  Who has it?  Where can we secure it?  How can we live love? 

John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, says it all begins with God for God is love—real love, the foundation of love.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  1 John 4:7-8, NIV

The world is looking for love “in all the wrong places” (yes, another song).  Paul answers all the above questions above about what love is and isn’t, how to love, who has it and the importance of living God’s perfect love.  Take the time to read Paul’s words, inspired by God’s love, slowly, carefully and prayerfully…

CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT

1 Corinthians 13, The Message

The Way of Love

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Lord,

Thank you for loving us perfectly, without conditions, limitlessly, while knowing us completely!  I trust you with my life.  You are life to me.  My hope is in You.  Help me to love others extravagantly like you love us.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”     1 John 4:9-12, NIV

One of my all-time favorite songs of truth is from Whiteheart…Let Your FIRST Thought be Love!  This will be playing in my head today…

Somehow, someone has hurt you again
And said things and done things you don’t understand
You don’t understand
It’s easy, just to think of your pride
So easy, to get angry inside

But let your first thought
Let your very first thought be love
Let your first thought
Let your very first thought be love, be love
Let it be love

Some people go looking for trouble to start
Oh but those people are hiding a lonely heart
They’ve got lonely hearts
So listen, listen to their silent cries
And touch them with the warmth in your eyes

And let your first thought
Let your very first thought be love
Let your first thought
Let your very first thought be love, be love

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PRIVILEDGED PART OF THE WHOLE!

“Susan, how do you pull it all together?”  I’m often asked that question after a large event given to me to organize comes to an end—and it always surprises me!  My first thought is, I didn’t do this, did you not see all the people who did?!  But, my simple answer is nearly always, “It’s a God-thing”.  However, if the person asking the question gives me an opportunity to explain; it can become a teachable moment to explain the “whole” picture.  

Confession.  I didn’t always understand the principle of parts of the whole. Mm, maybe that’s why I didn’t readily understand working with fractions until I became a teacher!  God gifted me with a servant’s heart.  I want to help others and do so readily, without thinking.  This is a strength, but before fully maturing, it was and can still be a weakness.  Let me explain.  Randy was called to leave public school teaching to become the pastor of the church we attended.  God also called me to help him. Sounds good so far, right?

The church had gone through troubles with many people leaving.  We were left with less than twenty people.  Called and equipped by God to “do this”, we jumped in with both feet to provide children and youth ministry, worship music, once a month fellowships with themes to attract people, along with all the rest.  Lots of ministry.  Staff of one with one volunteer.  We were younger then, lots of energy, but not so wise.

Let me help you see this “confession’ clearly as I describe a Sunday morning.  While Randy taught Sunday school for adults, I taught all ages of kids who came with them.  A few minutes before SS ended, I brought the kids with me into the worship area so I could lead worship while playing the piano—myself!  After leading worship, I would take the younger kids back to their area to sing and do activities while Randy preached the sermon.  When it was time to finish with a worship song, I brought the kiddos back into worship to sit near me so I could go back to the piano to play and lead the last song. 

WHY did I do this every Sunday?  Being immature, along with a servant’s heart, I felt I was doing this for them.  I wanted them to know and grow in Jesus so much that I didn’t ask for help.  And I was exhausted.  We were raising three kids of our own.  I was a public school teacher, too.  But, what was I modeling to those I served? 

One day, God halted me in my tracks as I read Paul’s writings.  I was convicted by His Holy Spirit.  I saw His Body of Believers more that way Jesus saw them.  God had given me help, I just had not noticed.  A collection of gifted people were ready to do their part and I thought I was serving them by doing it all myself.  Wrong!  Lesson learned. 

Discovery:  The people grew as they served, each doing their part, working together as the whole Body of Christ!

Paul explains this phenomenon best.  Paul taught the church that we are all “significant parts” of the whole Body of Christ.  We are not perfect, but Jesus, who works in and through us, is.  HE brings all the parts together, standing on His foundation of salvation, to build the Whole—In Him, For Him.  He does this because this is the best way for us to grow and mature in his character.  As we mature, we begin to bear the “fruits” of His labor of work in us.  The fruits of His Holy Spirit are noticeable and expressible gifts of His character!  (See Galatians 5 for the list!)

As a leader in different areas of ministry as well as public school teaching, God taught me early on, passed on by previous generations, how to “pull it all together” in Jesus Name, for His glory.  I am merely a part of the Whole Body of Christ.  Realizing my role helps me to do what pleases God most—loving and serving with each other. 

You will discover that Paul, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, teaches this “parts of the Whole” many times in his letters to the church.  Paul knew his part; do we know our part? 

Do we know why we do our part? 

“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”  Ephesians 4:16, NLT

CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT

1 Corinthians 12, The Message

Spiritual Gifts

1-3 What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit.

4-11 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:

wise counsel

clear understanding

simple trust

healing the sick

miraculous acts

proclamation

distinguishing between spirits

tongues

interpretation of tongues.

All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.

12-13 You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

14-18 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, transparent and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

19-24 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?

25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

27-31 You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. You’re familiar with some of the parts that God has formed in his church, which is his “body”:

apostles

prophets

teachers

miracle workers

healers

helpers

organizers

those who pray in tongues.

But it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that Christ’s church is a complete Body and not a gigantic, unidimensional Part? It’s not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for so-called “important” parts.

But now I want to lay out a far better way for you. 

**The “far better way” is expressed in our next exciting episode of “Who we are and How we behave” to please God as the part of the whole Body of Christ!   See you tomorrow, you’ll simply “LOVE” it!  (Hint, hint.)

Lord,

Thank you for caring enough to confront and correct me so many years ago.  Thank you for bringing me back to this lesson when I need it most.  Thank you for saving my soul with consistent work on my maturing character traits.  I love you, Lord.  I love your people.  Help us to grow as one in You.  I know how much this pleases you when we do our individual parts together in unity with Your Holy Spirit.  What a blessing to you!  Our goal.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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RESPECT

My grandpa rarely reprimanded his grandkids; but on one occasion, he had to take control of breakfast table situation quickly.  My cousins and I were spending time at Grandpa and Grandma’s farm as we did often.  We loved coming to the farm with all the experiences of feeding the animals, going fishing, riding horses, wandering over many acres of land while enjoying a bit of freedom from our parents. We loved and honored our grandparents but also felt we could get by with less than perfect behavior.  We took advantage of our grandparents’ unconditional love.  I admit it. 

At the breakfast table the first morning of our visit, our set-free attitudes developed into loud, obnoxious talking, competing for the attention of our grandparents (who were already listening), trying to be the funniest while being a little sloppy with our manners. (Okay, a LOT sloppy with our manners!) Then it happened.  The thing that crossed the line.  My oldest cousin told a hilarious (to us) story that made his younger sister choke on her oatmeal sending a spray of this half-eaten concoction across the table to land on our faces in disgust.  We laughed and cried loudly, shouting “Eww!”.  Grandpa took control and have us a “look” I would never forget.  Silence followed. Then I saw the twinkle in Grandma’s eyes of immediate forgiveness while she cleaned up the mess.  The meal continued with smiles but with much more respect.

We had crossed the line of honor and respect for the meal Grandma worked hard to prepare that morning.  We settled down to what we knew was right and learned quickly that respect is giving honor to the one who loves and serves you, takes care of you and provides for all that is in front of you.  My grandparents, by example, ultimately taught us that all honor goes to God, the Provider of all that we need.

In our next passage, Paul must step in and teach the wild and crazy Corinthians to settle down, leave worldview thinking and divisive, disrupting behaviors aside, and learn better manners while observing the Lord’s Supper.  They had forgotten WHY they were gathering in the first place.  They had forgotten the One who died for their sins.  The church gathered to eat, drink and be merry in a brawl for the ages, worse than my oatmeal experience!  Honor and respect were nowhere to be seen.  Paul steps in with the “look” (I can feel it) and a reminder of what Jesus expects and deserves as we remember His act of grace.

CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT

1 Corinthians 11, The Message

To Honor God

1-2 It pleases me that you continue to remember and honor me by keeping up the traditions of the faith I taught you. All actual authority stems from Christ.

3-9 In a marriage relationship, there is authority from Christ to husband, and from husband to wife. The authority of Christ is the authority of God. Any man who speaks with God or about God in a way that shows a lack of respect for the authority of Christ, dishonors Christ. In the same way, a wife who speaks with God in a way that shows a lack of respect for the authority of her husband, dishonors her husband. Worse, she dishonors herself—an ugly sight, like a woman with her head shaved. This is basically the origin of these customs we have of women wearing head coverings in worship, while men take their hats off. By these symbolic acts, men and women, who far too often butt heads with each other, submit their “heads” to the Head: God.

10-12 Don’t, by the way, read too much into the differences here between men and women. Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority. Man was created first, as a beautiful shining reflection of God—that is true. But the head on a woman’s body clearly outshines in beauty the head of her “head,” her husband. The first woman came from man, true—but ever since then, every man comes from a woman! And since virtually everything comes from God anyway, let’s quit going through these “who’s first” routines.

13-16 Don’t you agree there is something naturally powerful in the symbolism—a woman, her beautiful hair reminiscent of angels, praying in adoration; a man, his head bared in reverence, praying in submission? I hope you’re not going to be argumentative about this. All God’s churches see it this way; I don’t want you standing out as an exception.

17-19 Regarding this next item, I’m not at all pleased. I am getting the picture that when you meet together it brings out your worst side instead of your best! First, I get this report on your divisiveness, competing with and criticizing each other. I’m reluctant to believe it, but there it is. The best that can be said for it is that the testing process will bring truth into the open and confirm it.

20-22 And then I find that you bring your divisions to worship—you come together, and instead of eating the Lord’s Supper, you bring in a lot of food from the outside and make pigs of yourselves. Some are left out, and go home hungry. Others have to be carried out, too drunk to walk. I can’t believe it! Don’t you have your own homes to eat and drink in? Why would you stoop to desecrating God’s church? Why would you actually shame God’s poor? I never would have believed you would stoop to this. And I’m not going to stand by and say nothing.

23-26 Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in the Lord’s Supper and why it is so centrally important. I received my instructions from the Master himself and passed them on to you. The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said,

This is my body, broken for you.
Do this to remember me.

After supper, he did the same thing with the cup:

This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you.
Each time you drink this cup, remember me.

What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt.

27-28 Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe.

29-32 If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of the Master when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences. That’s why so many of you even now are listless and sick, and others have gone to an early grave. If we get this straight now, we won’t have to be straightened out later on. Better to be confronted by the Master now than to face a fiery confrontation later.

33-34 So, my friends, when you come together to the Lord’s Table, be reverent and courteous with one another. If you’re so hungry that you can’t wait to be served, go home and get a sandwich. But by no means risk turning this Meal into an eating and drinking binge or a family squabble. It is a spiritual meal—a love feast.

The other things you asked about, I’ll respond to in person when I make my next visit.

WHAT DO WE LEARN? WHO WE HONOR AND RESPECT—

All authority comes from Jesus, who is Head of the Church (all gathered believers).  His authority comes from God, our Creator, who created all, is in all, knows all and loves all.

We dishonor Him when we divide, criticize, compare and compete with each other.  

We are disrespectful when we come to His Table with sin in our hearts, unforgiveness of others, selfish thinking while spewing “oatmeal” of gossip and slander that divides the Body of Christ.

The Body of Honor and Respect is Jesus, Savior and Lord.  Worth reading again…

Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in the Lord’s Supper and why it is so centrally important. I received my instructions from the Master himself and passed them on to you. The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said,

This is my body, broken for you.
Do this to remember me.

After supper, he did the same thing with the cup:

This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you.
Each time you drink this cup, remember me.”

Camp on these words—”Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death”.

How?  “Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe”.

“So, my friends, when you come together to the Lord’s Table, be reverent and courteous with one another.”

“It is a spiritual meal—a love feast.”  It is a “full of Christ meal”, not of ritualistic routine but a meal of obedience, remembrance with hearts of gratitude, full of love, honor and respect for the One and Only who loves us most and gave His life for ours.  We show respect for Him when we respect and honor each other not only at His Table but in our daily lives.  At the beginning of each new day, come to Communion with Jesus at His Table of Grace, then do what He taught us—Love God, Love Each Other.

Lord,

Thank you for all you have done, are doing to teach us now and what you will do as you move us through each learning experience to maturity of your love because of your never-ending mercy and marvelous grace.  I love you with all my heart, mind and soul.  I give you all honor, praise and respect!

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen!

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A LOOK BACK TO MOVE FORWARD

Looking back at how God has blessed us with his love, mercy and grace, saved us from our sins by the blood shed by His Son, Jesus, then taught us lessons that challenged us to grow and mature in His holy character, we actually discover how far we still need to go.  The more we grow in His love, the more we want to know about Him.  The more we discover the true depths of His love for us, we learn to love others more deeply in the distinct ways He loves us—full of mercy and grace, without conditions, never ending and limitless.

Be looking back, we also realize how far we have come—or not.  With the help of God’s Holy Spirit, we evaluate our growth and realize we want to grow more.  God is always there to guide us to His best life for us.  Every day.

Paul is taking believers of the Corinthian church on a journey toward a more devoted, intimate relationship with Jesus by looking back at all God has already provided for His people.  There are some great “teachable moments” in this message of hope, our living Hope and Solid Rock foundation, Jesus Christ.   

CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT

1 Corinthians 10, The Message

(Emphasis mine)

 1-5 Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life. They all ate and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God’s fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ. But just experiencing God’s wonder and grace didn’t seem to mean much—most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.

6-10 The same thing could happen to us. We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did. And we must not turn our religion into a circus as they did—“First the people partied, then they threw a dance.” We must not be sexually promiscuous—they paid for that, remember, with 23,000 deaths in one day! We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes. We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them.

11-12 These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.

13 No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.

14 So, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can.

15-18 I assume I’m addressing believers now who are mature. Draw your own conclusions: When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. That’s basically what happened even in old Israel—those who ate the sacrifices offered on God’s altar entered into God’s action at the altar.

19-22 Do you see the difference? Sacrifices offered to idols are offered to nothing, for what’s the idol but a nothing? Or worse than nothing, a minus, a demon! I don’t want you to become part of something that reduces you to less than yourself. And you can’t have it both ways, banqueting with the Master one day and slumming with demons the next. Besides, the Master won’t put up with it. He wants us—all or nothing. Do you think you can get off with anything less?

23-24 Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.

25-28 With that as a base to work from, common sense can take you the rest of the way. Eat anything sold at the butcher shop, for instance; you don’t have to run an “idolatry test” on every item. “The earth,” after all, “is God’s, and everything in it.” That “everything” certainly includes the leg of lamb in the butcher shop. If a nonbeliever invites you to dinner and you feel like going, go ahead and enjoy yourself; eat everything placed before you. It would be both bad manners and bad spirituality to cross-examine your host on the ethical purity of each course as it is served. On the other hand, if he goes out of his way to tell you that this or that was sacrificed to god or goddess so-and-so, you should pass. Even though you may be indifferent as to where it came from, he isn’t, and you don’t want to send mixed messages to him about who you are worshiping.

29-30 But, except for these special cases, I’m not going to walk around on eggshells worrying about what small-minded people might say; I’m going to stride free and easy, knowing what our large-minded Master has already said. If I eat what is served to me, grateful to God for what is on the table, how can I worry about what someone will say? I thanked God for it and he blessed it!

31-33 So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you—you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory. At the same time, don’t be callous in your exercise of freedom, thoughtlessly stepping on the toes of those who aren’t as free as you are. I try my best to be considerate of everyone’s feelings in all these matters; I hope you will be, too.

WHAT WE LEARN TO GROW ON—

(With commentary excerpts interspersed from Warren Wiersbe)

Balance experience with caution.  Paul reminded the experienced believers who were strong in the faith that they had better not grow overconfident.  “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.”

I’m reminded of Solomon’s wisdom, “Pride goes before a fall.”  (Proverb 16:18)

Privileges were no guarantee of success (vv. 1–4). Israel had been delivered from Egypt by the power of God, just as the Christian believer has been redeemed from sin. (In 1 Cor. 5:7–8, Paul had already related Passover to salvation.)

There are dangers to maturity as well as to immaturity, and one of them is overconfidence. When we think we are strong, we discover that we are weak.

Good beginnings do not guarantee good endings. The Jews experienced God’s miracles, and yet they failed when they were tested in the wilderness. Experience must always be balanced with caution, for we never come to the place in our Christian walk where we are free from temptation and potential failure.

We can almost hear some of the “strong” Corinthians asking, “But what does that have to do with us?” Paul then pointed out that the Corinthian church was guilty of the same sins that the Jews committed. Because of their lust for evil things, the Corinthians were guilty of immorality (1 Cor. 6), idolatry (1 Cor. 8; 10), and murmuring against God (2 Cor. 12:20–21). Like the nation of Israel, they were tempting God and just “daring Him” to act.  Yikes!

Paul was not suggesting that his readers might lose their salvation, but he was afraid that some of them would be “castaways” (1 Cor. 9:27), disapproved of God and unable to receive any reward.

I heard about a pastor who gave a series of sermons on “The Sins of the Saints.” One member of the church, apparently under conviction, disapproved of the series and told the pastor so. “After all,” she said, “sin in the life of a Christian is different from sin in the life of an unsaved person.” “Yes, it is,” the pastor replied. “It’s worse!”

Sin in the church today is far more serious, because we have Israel’s example to learn from, and we are living “at the end of the ages.” To sin against the law is one thing; to sin against grace is quite something else.

God can enable us to overcome temptation if we obey His Word (vv. 13–22). God permits us to be tempted because He knows how much we can take; and He always provides a way to escape if we will trust Him and take advantage of it. The believer who thinks he can stand may fall; but the believer who flees will be able to stand. 

Dear Friends, we love the illustration Paul gives us about staying in communion with God.  He used the Lord’s Supper as an illustration. When the believer partakes of the cup and loaf at the Lord’s table, he is, in a spiritual way, having fellowship with the body and blood of Christ. By remembering Christ’s death, the believer enters into a communion with the risen Lord.  Read that again, we are in close communion with the One and Only who saved us from all sin.  Christ is our confidence, our ONLY confidence!

Freedom must be balanced by responsibility—the maturing factor.  To begin with, we have a responsibility to our fellow believers in the church (1 Cor. 10:23–30). We are responsible to build others up in the faith and to seek their advantage. Philippians 2:1–4 gives the same admonition. While we do have freedom in Christ, we are not free to harm another believer.

Concerning the recurring “meat” question—Paul explains, “Why should I not enjoy food for which I give thanks? Why should my liberty be curtailed because of another person’s weak conscience?” His reply introduced the second responsibility we have: We are responsible to glorify God in all things (1 Cor. 10:31). We cannot glorify God by causing another Christian to stumble. To be sure, our own conscience may be strong enough for us to participate in some activity and not be harmed. But we dare not use our freedom in Christ in any way that will injure a fellow Christian.

But there is a third responsibility that ties in with the first two: We are responsible to seek to win the lost (1 Cor. 10:32–33). We must not make it difficult either for Jews or Gentiles to trust the Lord, or for other members of the church to witness for the Lord. We must not live to seek our own benefit, but also the benefit of others, that they might be saved.  (Our ultimate focus.)

By the way, when Paul wrote, “I please all men in all things” (1 Cor. 10:33), he was not suggesting that he was a compromiser or a man-pleaser (see Gal. 1:10). He was affirming the fact that his life and ministry were centered on helping others rather than on promoting himself and his own desires.

In other words, don’t be callous, be kind.  Always.

Lord,

Wow, there was a lot to learn in this passage this morning!  Help me to center all my thoughts on You with ears to hear you along with confidence in You to obey you first and last.  Always.  May I be led by your love.

In Jesus Name, For His Glory, Amen.

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CALLED TO NOT MISS A THING!

As we read our next passage of Paul’s compelling ministry journey, I am reminded of a gospel song by The Martins.  This group of two sisters and a brother sing from the heart as they deliver the Good News to all who will listen.  This song touches my heart in my own calling to “go and tell”.

“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”

Leaving this place getting ready to go
Gotta get moving cause there’s something I know
God’s got a plan, got a blessing in store
So put me in the middle of the will of the Lord

Having my fill of the pushing away
It was me who was running, it was Him who stayed
Now I want it bad and I know what this means
Lining up with him, sure don’t wanna miss a thing

Don’t wanna miss the joy, don’t wanna miss the peace
Don’t wanna miss the power, don’t wanna miss a thing
I’m gonna get while the gettin’s good
Follow His heart like I know I should
No I don’t want, don’t wanna miss a thing
No I don’t want, don’t wanna miss a thing

Setting my sights on the heavenly prize
Seeing my life through spiritual eyes
I’m breaking out of a worldly mode
Heading on down a less traveled road

I’ll walk through the fire just to see His face
Won’t trade my freedom for a temporal place
He may be moving in mysterious ways
But I’m moving with Him for the rest of my days

Don’t wanna miss the joy, don’t wanna miss the peace
Don’t wanna miss the power, don’t wanna miss a thing
I’m gonna get while the gettin’s good
Follow His heart like I know I should
No I don’t want, don’t wanna miss a thing
No I don’t want, don’t wanna miss a thing

Don’t want to miss the mark (no no no)
Don’t want to go astray
Don’t want to waste the chance
Don’t want to lose the way

Don’t wanna miss the joy, don’t wanna miss the peace
Don’t wanna miss the power, don’t wanna miss a thing
Well, I’m gonna get while the gettin’s good
Follow His heart like I know I should
No I don’t want, don’t wanna miss a thing
No I don’t want, don’t wanna miss a thing
No No No, I don’t want, don’t wanna miss a thing
No No, I don’t want….don’t want to miss a thing

I do not want to miss a single thing!

I hear this in the background as Paul writes of the authority, peace, joy that compels him by Jesus, in the Name of Jesus, to preach the Good News of salvation from Jesus!  Paul runs the race, constantly training in the Word, listening and obeying the Holy Spirit of God.  He is writing what God inspires him to write while most times sitting in jail for doing exactly what Jesus commissioned and compels Paul to do.  Jesus met him on the road to Damacus, changed his whole way of thinking (the calling), prepared him then commissioned with His authority to go and preach (the sending).  (See Acts 9.)

I am also reminded of the words of Jesus as began this spreading of the gospel of salvation from the mountain top, giving His authority as given to him to those who will continue His work on earth…as he ascended back to heaven;

The Great Commission

Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” –Jesus, Matthew 28:16-20, NLT

Paul was commissioned and compelled to speak, whether paid or unpaid with care for his physical needs, whether jailed or moving from town to town to those who needed to know the Messiah come, dealing with critics and unbelievers along the way.  Paul does not want to miss a thing of Jesus’ calling so others will know Jesus, too, saved by the grace of God!  Paul does not personally want to miss a thing in his own daily living, guided by the Holy Spirit.  “I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

NOTE TO SELF…All who believe and call on the name of Jesus are saved for eternity with God.  All of us are called and sent, by Jesus’ authority, with His compelling compassion to speak His words so others will know Jesus, too.  Jesus is not a secret to be hidden away! 

Dear Friends, don’t we all want “to be in on it”, like Paul? 

Pause to pray, asking God what HE wants.  Take all the time you need.  The outcome of our behaviors will reveal and reflect who we really believe and compels to do what we do. 

Personally, I don’t wanna miss a thing! 

CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT

1 Corinthians 9, The Message

(Emphasis in bold, mind)

1-2 And don’t tell me that I have no authority to write like this. I’m perfectly free to do this—isn’t that obvious? Haven’t I been given a job to do? Wasn’t I commissioned to this work in a face-to-face meeting with Jesus, our Master? Aren’t you yourselves proof of the good work that I’ve done for the Master? Even if no one else admits the authority of my commission, you can’t deny it. Why, my work with you is living proof of my authority!

3-7 I’m not shy in standing up to my critics. We who are on missionary assignments for God have a right to decent accommodations, and we have a right to support for us and our families. You don’t seem to have raised questions with the other apostles and our Master’s brothers and Peter in these matters. So, why me? Is it just Barnabas and I who have to go it alone and pay our own way? Are soldiers self-employed? Are gardeners forbidden to eat vegetables from their own gardens? Don’t dairy farmers get to drink their fill from the pail?

8-12 I’m not just sounding off because I’m irritated. This is all written in the scriptural law. Moses wrote, “Don’t muzzle an ox to keep it from eating the grain when it’s threshing.” Do you think Moses’ primary concern was the care of farm animals? Don’t you think his concern extends to us? Of course. Farmers plow and thresh expecting something when the crop comes in. So if we have planted spiritual seed among you, is it out of line to expect a meal or two from you? Others demand plenty from you in these ways. Don’t we who have never demanded deserve even more?

12-14 But we’re not going to start demanding now what we’ve always had a perfect right to. Our decision all along has been to put up with anything rather than to get in the way or detract from the Message of Christ. All I’m concerned with right now is that you not use our decision to take advantage of others, depriving them of what is rightly theirs. You know, don’t you, that it’s always been taken for granted that those who work in the Temple live off the proceeds of the Temple, and that those who offer sacrifices at the altar eat their meals from what has been sacrificed? Along the same lines, the Master directed that those who spread the Message be supported by those who believe the Message.

15-18 Still, I want it made clear that I’ve never gotten anything out of this for myself, and that I’m not writing now to get something. I’d rather die than give anyone ammunition to discredit me or question my motives. If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it for myself. I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t! If this was my own idea of just another way to make a living, I’d expect some pay. But since it’s not my idea but something solemnly entrusted to me, why would I expect to get paid? So am I getting anything out of it? Yes, as a matter of fact: the pleasure of proclaiming the Message at no cost to you. You don’t even have to pay my expenses!

19-23 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

24-25 You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.

26-27 I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No lazy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

WHAT WE LEARN…

“If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it for myself. I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t!”

“I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No lazy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.”

Oh Lord,

I love you with all my heart, mind and soul.  Because of our communion each morning, I am compelled to learn from Your Word, grow by direction of Your Holy Spirit and listen to You guide me through living each day for you.  You live in us.  You call and send us.  You provide opportunities to tell your Good News.  I know you are with us, compelling us to run this race and not miss a thing of your glory and power working in us.  Thank you, Lord.  I listening!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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